Police Budget Cuts

John Feayvour, the Deputy Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Police talks to the BBC’s Steve Titman about the harsh reality of the budget cuts proposed for his force, and where the axe might fall. Broadcast at 07:10 on Tuesday 17th August 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show hosted by Andy Gall on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

AG: It’s ten minutes past seven. Fewer officers on the beat, closure of police stations, cuts in PCSO numbers, even privatisation of parts of the force, that’s the future of Cambridgeshire Police as they come to terms with inevitable funding restraints. The force is expecting to lose at least nine million pounds from their budget next year. Now yesterday our reporter Steve Titman spoke to John Feayvour, the Deputy Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Police. He started by asking if twenty five per cent cuts to the budget was even possible. (TAPE)
JF: Government is asking us to model the impact of twenty five and forty per cent, and frankly forty per cent is unconscionable. The organisation will cease to exist if we’ve got to make those kind of cuts. But twenty five per cent over the next four years is incredibly challenging. It’s of the order of eight million pounds a year out of a total budget of a hundred and thirty million, and would fundamentally alter the shape of Cambridgeshire Constabulary.
ST: I think you’ve mentioned that nothing’s off the table for cuts. That includes police cars, police stations, police officers, everything really.
JF: Well by definition we need to look at everything. Nothing is off the table, because of the scale of the cuts which I’ve got to achieve. However the challenge is that eighty three per cent of my budget is spent on wages, frankly, and I can’t make the cuts out of the seventeen per cent that’s left. And the only way I can lose those levels of spending is to delete posts, and that means making people redundant. And that’s the real challenge here.
ST: So you’ve got eighty three per cent of your budget for staff costs.
JF: That’s correct.
ST: You’ve got fourteen hundred officers, about a thousand staff, and two hundred PCSOs. You envisage making twenty five per cent of those people redundant, or not replacing their jobs?
JF: Well over the next four years we’ve got to try and redesign the organisation so it’s got twenty five per cent less staff in it. Now we will want to make some savings out of the other costs as well, so maybe we might be able to mitigate that a little bit.
ST: At the moment police officers are protected against redundancy. Do you think that will continue?
JF: Police officers, as part of applicable police regulations, cannot be made redundant. Technically we are Crown servants and can’t be made redundant. As you say that’s because of police regulations. But in the future I can’t see that being sustainable.
ST: And obviously it will start dawning on members of the public that if you have to make police officers redundant there’ll be fewer police officers on the street. Does this mean that crime will go up in Cambridgeshire over the next four years, as your money decreases?
JF: Well as I mentioned in the last answer we can’t make a police officer redundant yet, but inevitably whether we’re able to recruit any more in the foreseeable, or certainly in the near future, is in question. That will mean that police officer numbers go down. And yes, there will be slightly less numbers visible on the streets. I’m absolutely positive that we’ll do the best with the level of resources that are made available to us. Can I guarantee that crime won’t go up? Of course I can’t, because of course fundamentally the more officers we have the better chance I’ve got of doing that. People in the county already know that we’re one of the lowest funded counties pro rate, compared with other forces in the country. So this is just going to be an even bigger challenge.
ST: And what about like many other local authorities are doing at the moment, they’re privatising services. You’ve got a thousand people on your back room staff. Is there any of the service that they provide that could be privatised, and taken away from your budget?
JF: There’s always opportunity to look at outsourcing, and we have in fact looked at a number of options for different parts of the business over the last couple of years that I’ve been involved in.
ST: Have you got any examples of the ways you look to privatise things within the force?
JF: Well we’ve looked at fleet management in the past, and perhaps putting the whole of our fleet operations out to a private supplier. When we did the calculations it turned out that our in-house fleet management team was doing a much more cost effective job than could be delivered at the time that we were looking outside. So there’s an example of where we do routinely look at outside, frankly for non-policing roles. Policing is a matter for police officers, and that will remain to be the case. But we will always be looking elsewhere as well, when we’re looking at general management roles.
ST: So if you get a good deal you might take it?
JF: If you want to come along and run my fleet for nothing I’d snap your arm off. (LIVE)
AG: Steve Titman talking to John Feayvour, the Deputy Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Police.